Spay Illinois started for the same reason a lot of animal welfare nonprofits do: there were pets in trouble and the people who loved them didn’t know where to turn.
The year was 2009.
In Momence, Pembroke and the Hopkins Park area, there wasn’t even accessible veterinary care. People were rescuing animals off the streets but then they had nowhere to take them for help. Those animals were sick from things that a simple vaccine would prevent. Cases of distemper and parvo were running rampant, not just in puppies, but in adult dogs, too. Ringworm was a serious problem and fleas were having a field day with the cats and the dogs and the kids who befriended them.
With no clinics nearby, that also meant there weren’t spays or neuters happening either. More animals were being born into a community that was already struggling to keep up.
The other issue, too, was that many of the families who loved and wanted those animals couldn’t afford to get them what they needed, even if there had been clinics within reach.
Our founder and current CEO, Kathi Daniels, knew she had to do something.
While some in the community were distrusting of our initial efforts, and we heard plenty of others tell us that if a family couldn’t afford to get a pet everything they needed, they shouldn’t have one, we persisted.
The best way forward was to build trust and approach people without judgment. We also believed then as we do now that finances shouldn’t dictate a person’s ability to have a pet. In fact, if someone is willing to house and love a pet but they struggle financially from time to time, we’re glad to be here to help. In reality, it’s why we exist in the first place. The small hurdle we can help someone get over means there is another home for an animal that might otherwise be stuck in the shelter. Or worse – lost, scared and alone on the streets, fighting for survival.
None of it was easy in those days.
"I don't think there was a day we weren't running surgeries and having our vet run out to do heartworm treatments in between surgeries as we always had so many to treat,” says Kathi. “There was just no keeping up.”
The approach was to provide education about any- and everything just so those animals could stay in their homes. It could be about helping someone understand how to care for kittens after the momma cat died AND providing the formula to help make it successful. It was about spay and neutering as many pets - affordably - as we could so we could cut down on pet homelessness. And it was about providing low-cost or subsidized access to vaccines to prevent illness and disease in as many pets as possible.
Now, 14 years later, we’re still here helping do what we can for the families in our community. And we have no plans of slowing down.
Our 2023 plans consist of spaying or neutering 750 community cats (in addition to
the 10,000 + surgeries we’ll perform on owned pets). Providing 1,000 free rabies vaccines and 1,500 distemper vaccines to pets in need. Microchipping 6,000 pets to help them get home when lost. And, of course, preventing disease by vaccinating thousands of pets and providing help, education and love where it’s needed.
Together we can do this. We can ensure a better future for thousands of pets in the community and keep doing that for years to come. In fact, we have some big plans in the works with the hopes that one day we’ll reach more dogs and cats with supportive services.
Because our mission was, and remains, keeping pets and families together.